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Public servant tells of horror at chainsaw threat

Date

Matthew Raggatt

Smashed ... Police say a man with a running chainsaw caused extensive damage in Flax House, Tuggeranong.

Smashed ... Police say a man with a running chainsaw caused extensive damage in Flax House, Tuggeranong. Photo: Jay Cronan

A Canberra public servant has described the panic and shock of staff inside the Tuggeranong office that was attacked by a chainsaw-wielding man on Thursday afternoon.

The Department of Human Services employee said she was at the Greenway building when frightened colleagues ran past “yelling and screaming for everyone to get out”.  

“I heard the banging of the chainsaw on the glass and it was pretty loud," she said.

“Everyone was just panicked, it was a real shock.”

The 34-year-old attacker, a Dickson man understood to be a former DHS employee, has been arrested and is in police custody.

ACT police were called to the two-storey Flax House complex in Cowlishaw Street after the man entered and allegedly “bashed in” the glass security door of the upstairs government office.

About 40 public servants in the office had already evacuated through an emergency exit by the time the door broke, the employee said.

Some were understood to have hid in cupboards before their evacuation.

A separate witness, who owns the Jindebah Café in Flax House, said the man looked “quiet” and “determined” as he walked into the complex and past about 10 people before heading upstairs.

“We were outside talking to customers and he walked past – about three metres [away],” the witness said.

“It wasn’t threatening, he didn’t look threatening because he was a man on a mission,” he said.

“We thought this is not right and everyone reached for phones to call the police.”

The witness, who did not wish to be named, said “a couple” of employees from upstairs had walked downstairs shortly before the chainsaw-wielding man moved towards his target.

He said police arrived promptly, with two officers telling the man to put down his weapon.

“I’m not sure if he dropped or put the chainsaw down: they only asked him once,” he said.  

“He was told by police to get on the floor, and after the third call he did.”

ACT police said the Tuggeranong officers took the man into custody, and he would be charged with burglary-related offences.

The female DHS employee said staff, including some who would have seen the intruder, gathered in the Tuggeranong library before hearing of the man’s arrest.

“They were really in shock and took a while to process what had happened,” she said.

She said all staff had been offered counselling, and was confident improved building security would be in place when she returned to work on Tuesday.  

The cafe owner said one observer was thankful the bizarre incident did not involve a firearm.

“Someone said ‘lucky we’re not in America, because he could have had a semi-automatic’,” he said.

Police have urged anyone who may have witnessed the incident and hasn’t already spoken to them, or has information which may assist police, to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or at the website.

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